Marin County Free Library Solves a 48-Year Mystery

Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella was taken aback recently when she was checking messages on behalf of the Marin County Free Library’s Corte Madera branch and saw a note about a first-grader who had failed to return a checked-out book.

There’s nothing unusual about a kid who borrows a book for too long. But in this case, too long was 48 years.

Even more unusual was that the now-grown man’s friend wanted to rectify the situation.

“Obviously, it was almost 50 years ago and has been lost to time, but I was wanting to pay the late fee or replacement cost for the book as a joke and giving him a confirmation receipt for Christmas,” read the message.

The note came from Kenny Newell, who lives and works in the Dallas area. Newell outed the thief as his boss, Tony Goodman, CEO and president of PeopleFun, one of the world’s biggest developers of mobile word games.

Goodman spent just one of his “wonder years” living in Corte Madera and attended Neil Cummins Elementary School. The book he checked out in the summer of 1972 was Look Out For Pirates!, by Iris Vinton.

On Friday, December 11, Newell presented a note to Goodman at their workplace with a receipt for $58 paid to Marin County Free Library. That accounted for a $48 late fee—a dollar for each year overdue, playfully agreed to by the library—and the estimated $10 cost of replacing the book in 1972 dollars.

Marin County Free Library did away with fines on children’s materials in 2015 and followed by eliminating fines on adult materials in July 2019.

Just for fun, the library decided to calculate how much the late fee would’ve been back in the day. Ten cents per day at 17,865 days is 178,650 cents, or $1,786.50. “Although,” Hartwell-Mandella said, “we would’ve capped the final at the original cost of the book, which was probably no more than $5 or $10 back in 1971.”

This Open Mic was submitted on behalf of the Marin County Free Library. Find more information about how to make a donation and support the Marin County Free Library at Marinlibrary.org.
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